Be Cool…Avoid Heatstroke

Godiva being cool at Lake Tahoe

When your pet’s body temperature rises above 105 °F, their life is in danger.  Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, occurs when your pet can no longer self-regulate their body temperature.  Prolonged, elevated temperatures over 106 °F can cause irreversible damage to vital organs, such as the liver, kidneys and brain. Or worse, death.

Even if your pet survives the acute trauma of heatstroke, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is still a threat.  This often fatal blood disease arises when homeostasis has be disrupted.  The body begins both bleeding and clotting at the same time.

Cats get hot too!

Heatstroke or hyperthermia should be suspected if your cat or dog has been subjected to high temperatures or humidity for prolonged periods of time.  Canines with squished faces; Pugs, Lhasa apso, bull dogs; and felines like Persians, Scottish folds and Himalayans are more prone to becoming over heated because they can’t pant properly.  If you own a squished face breed, take caution in these upcoming hot summer days.  Avoiding environments where your pet can become too hot is the only way prevent heatstroke.

What are the signs of heatstroke?

  • Pet appears distressed or anxious
  • Panting excessively becoming more and more restless
  • Excessive drooling
  • Staggering
  • Change in gum color
    • Bluish-purple or bright red gums indicate poor oxygenation.

What if my pet is showing these signs?

  • Stay with your pet.
  • Get to a cooler or shaded area as quickly as possible
  • Begin cooling with cold water.
    • Running cool water between the legs and over abdomen is preferred.
    • Evaporation is the key!
  • DO NOT over cool. NEVER USE ICE!
    • Take a rectal temperature and record it every 5 minutes.
    • Normal temperature should read between 100.5 °F-102.5 °F
  • Offer small amounts of water to avoid vomiting or bloat. Never force water in their mouth.
  • Keep them up or moving slowly.
    • Circulation will allow cooled blood to circulate more efficiently.
  • Seek veterinary medical attention.

What can I expect at the vet?

Aided cooling will continue if their body temperature still hasn’t decreased to normal yet. You can expect your vet to perform blood work, analyzing kidney and liver values.  Intravenous fluids will be administered to correct electrolyte imbalances and support organ function.  From there, your pet will continue to be monitored at the hospital or at home for at least 72 hours.  If DIC occurs, further treatment will be necessary.  Your pet’s prognosis may still be guarded.

Tech Tips

  • Avoid hiking, exercising or playing during peak heat times.
  • Use products like Ruffwear’s The Swamp Cooler to keep you pet cool during outdoor activities.
  • BEFORE going out, be sure your pet is well hydrated.
  • Offer plenty of fresh drinking water during warm weather activities.
  • NEVER leave a pet in the car – #HotHappensFast
  • Be sure your pet has access to a cool area indoors with adequate ventilation.
  • Create a pet chilling zone!

    • Put a kiddie pool in the back yard for cooling play time.
    • Use portable cooling misters outdoors where you pet likes to “chill.”

Remember the best heatstroke tip is PREVENTION! It’s up to you to protect your pet!


Ruby says…BE COOL. STAY COOL.  How will you keep your pets cool in this summer?


Author: Aubrie Ricketts

Experienced Licensed Veterinary Technician, Executive Master of Business Administration - University of Nevada, Reno. I love marketing and promoting preventative medicine and pet wellness. I have a dedicated passion for veterinary anesthesia and pain management.

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